So You’re a Colony Caretaker

By: | March 1, 2019

Photos courtesy of our friends at St Louis Feral Cat Outreach –


So a feral cat has decided to adopt you! Congratulations and welcome to the community.

And yes – it is a community! All around you, likely in dead of night, there are community cats afoot. They have caretakers who love them and will live their whole happy lives in their outdoor homes.

Now, just because these are undomesticated cats doesn’t mean we can’t give them a little help from time to time.


First things first, of course, we’ll need to get your kitty fixed, vaccinated, and ear-tipped. The only way to do this (provided kitty won’t let you pick her up) is to trap her. STLFCO or other orgs can lend you a trap.

Kitty will also get a short exam before surgery – now is a good time to check for anything that might require a more serious follow up.

*Pictured: an ear tip on a community cat.


Next, kitty is going to need food and water. In the winter, we recommend heated bowls for water, if possible. If not, make sure to change the water regularly.

All across St Louis colony caretakers feed thousands of cats – the largest colonies our friends at St Louis Feral Cat Outreach report can number in 40+ cats.

Luckily if you follow step #1 (TNR), you won’t have to worry about your new furry friend becoming 40 furry friends. This is probably the best part of being a colony caretaker – your kitty will bond to you, in his or her own way, at feeding time.

Feral exists on a spectrum. Some colony caretakers report that their kitties will allow petting, or outdoor snuggling, or even a very special person to pick them up. Feral cats who run from strangers (and are terribly unsuited to an indoor life) nonetheless form special connections with their caretakers.

Finally, your kitty will need shelter. The shelter we recommend are made from upcycled Styrofoam coolers wrapped and sealed in plastic.


Make sure your Styrofoam shelter isn’t too small – and then wrap in the big contractor garbage bags. Seal with gorilla tape!

ONLY use straw – NOT HAY or blankets – in your shelter! Straw is hollow and will dry after rain or snow.

Make sure to seal up any place where moisture can get inside the plastic outer shell

Here are some examples of other shelter builds:

If you are unable to create your own, contact the APA. Depending on season and availability, we may be able to provide you with one.

Most of all: enjoy your new kitty! Thank you for taking the time and compassion for the most vulnerable cats in your community. Although they may never offer you snuggles, we guarantee they thank you. If nothing else, WE thank you!